2011 Stanley Cup Finals Preview: Canucks Vs Bruins

2011 NHL Playoffs
Stanley Cup Finals
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs #3 Boston Bruins
Best of 7 Series Format, 2-2-1-1-1
Wednesday, June 1-Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Series Price: VAN -235 / BOS +195 (courtesy of bodog)
Game 1 opening line: Canucks -175 / Bruins +155
Game 1 current line: Canucks -200 / Bruins +170
Game 1 Opening Total: 5 1/2 over -110 / 5 1/2 under -110
Game 1 Opening Total: 5 1/2 under -140 / 5 1/2 over +120
Series Schedule:

Wednesday, June 1 at Vancouver, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
Saturday, June 4 at Vancouver, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
Monday, June 6 at Boston, 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Wednesday, June 8 at Boston, 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Friday, June 10 at Vancouver, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
*Monday, June 13 at Boston, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
*Wednesday, June 15 at Vancouver, 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS
Tim Thomas and the Bruins try to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972 as the take on the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks are -240 favorites to win their first ever Stanley Cup.

No matter who wins Lord Stanley’s Cup, it will be historic. The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Cup in their 40 year history. The Boston Bruins, one of the league’s original 6 teams, haven’t won it since 1972. Vancouver and Boston have two of the NHL’s most passionate fan bases and both are hungry for the cup. Vancouver is also playing for the pride of Canada as no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since Montreal in 1993. Boston is also trying to do something unique in that they can win championships in the 4 major sports in a ten year period. Recently, the Bruins have been overshadowed by the success of the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics.

Vancouver won the President’s Cup for having the best record in the league. However, in the first round of the playoffs, the Canucks were unlucky enough to get the defending champion Blackhawks, far from your typical 8 seed. The Canucks jumped out to a 3-0 series lead before the Blackhawks won 3 in a row to force game 7. In fact Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was benched for game 6 after struggling in games 4 and 5. The Canucks survived in overtime 2-1 in game 7 to advance to the second round. Chicago had eliminated Vancouver from the last 3 playoffs, so the Canucks exorcised some demons. From Game 7 against the Blackhawks on, Luongo has been fantastic with a GAA hovering around 2. Vancouver beat Nashville in 6 hard fought games in the second round, and dominated the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in the Western Finals. Vancouver has had a full week off since then, so it might take them a period or 2 to get their legs back. The Canucks are playing in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994 when they lost a heartbreaking 7 game series to the New York Rangers.

Boston won the Northeast division, and drew arch-rival Montreal in the first round. The Bruins lost the first 2 games at home before fighting back to win the series in 7 games. The Bruins won the last 3 games in the series in overtime. Boston played Philadelphia in the second round.   That was  a rematch of a memorable 7 game series from a year ago in which the Flyers became only the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the series. The Bruins made sure that didn’t happen this time as the swept the Flyers to go to the Eastern Finals against a talented Tampa Bay team. The series was back and forth and went to game 7 in Boston. Four of the seven games were offensive shootouts with at least 7 goals scored. However game 7 was a tight defensive battle with Boston winning 1-0  on a  late third period goal by Nathan Horton. Boston is playing in their first Finals since 1990.

Boston is relatively healthy right now, but Center Marc Savard has been out since February with a concussion. Vancouver has a slew of nagging injuries, but centers Manny Malhotra (eye) & Ryan Kessler (leg) and defensemen Christian Ehroff (shoulder) & Aaron Rome (head) are all listed as probable for game 1.

These two teams don’t play each other very often, as they are more than 3,000 miles apart. Boston has won 2 of the last 3 meetings with Vancouver, including a 3-1 victory February 26 in Vancouver in the team’s only meeting  of the season. The under is 2-0-1 in those games. The Canucks are 66-34 in all games this season, including 42-19 against teams with winning records, and 7-0 in games where they had 3 or more days rest this season. Boston is 8-1 in road games when playing with 3 or more days rest this season.

Vancouver is scoring 2.78 goals a game in the playoffs and giving up 2.56 goals a game. on offense the Canucks are led by the Sedin twins Daniel and Henrik. Henrik has 21 points, including 19 assists to lead the Canucks in both categories. Daniel leads the Cauncks with 8 playoff goals and has 16 points. Both Sedin twins struggled in the second round series against Nashville’s tough blue line. However, they returned to their MYP forms against the Sharks. Kesler has 18 points for Vancouver in the playoffs, including 11 assists. Left Wing Alex Burrows has 14 play-off points and Ehroff has 11. In goal, Luongo has a GAA of 2.29 and a save percentage of .922. The Canucks have scored 17 power play goals in the post season, for a 28.6% success rate. They have allowed 3 short handed goals though. Vancouver has allowed 14 power play goals for an 80% success rate on the penalty kill.

Unlike Vancouver, Boston has been anemic on the power play. Incredibly, Boston has advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals having scored only 5 power play goals, or a pathetic 8% conversion rate. Boston has allowed 13 power play goals for a 79% penalty kill rate. Boston is scoring 3.22 goals a game in the playoffs and allowing 2.50 goals a game. Boston Goalie Tim Thomas has played every minute of the playoffs so far, the only goalie to do that. He has a 2.29 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Right Wing Nathan Horton and Center David Krejci are tied fro the team lead in playoff points. Krejci leads the Bruins with 10 goals, and Horton has 8 goals including the game winners in game 7’s against Montreal and Tampa Bay. Center Patrice Bergeron has 15 points including 11 assists to lead the team. Left wing Brad Marchand has 12 points. Michael Ryder and Chris Kelly both have 11 playoff points.

Boston must improve their power play or this will be a short series. Thomas and Luongo are both finalists for the Vezina trophy given to the best goaltender in the league. Both have been brilliant during the playoffs, and have a good shot of winning the Conn Smythe trophy as well if their teams were to win the cup. Travel will be an issue, as the NHL keeps the 2-2-1-1-1 format for the finals, unlike the NBA which switches to a 2-3-2 format. If the series goes 7 games, that means the teams will have 4 cross country flights in less than a week. I like the home team in that situation. Besides I just think Vancouver simply has two much fire power and wins their first ever Stanley Cup.

Series Prediction: Canucks in Seven games

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